Canada stands on the verge of passing a landmark climate mitigation policy that will hasten momentum towards its climate objectives. The Clean Electricity Regulations (formerly the Clean Electricity Standard) would comprise a suite of regulatory measures housed under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Passing these regulations would push Canada toward a fully clean electricity grid. The adoption of a clean, flexible and reliable energy grid powered by renewable energy, energy storage, and energy efficiency would have significant positive implications for human health, particularly through the phase-out of methane gas and coal in provinces across the country..
The federal government has stated its intention to achieve a net-zero electricity supply by 2035. Meeting this aim will help meet the government’s broader objective of achieving net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. This climate target is drawn from the Paris Agreement as well as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) assessment that achieving net-zero global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The government has sought to develop the Clean Electricity Regulations around three core principles:
- Maximizing greenhouse gas reductions;
- Ensuring grid reliability; and
- Maintaining electricity affordability.
MPs need to make the Clean Electricity Regulations as strong as possible.
We ask that the Clean Electricity Regulations:
- Do not allow existing or new emitting generation assets to operate beyond 2035 without meeting the net-zero emissions standard, with no exemptions.
- Include interim targets that send a clear signal to avoid investment in new emitting generation and to ensure that Canada meets its target of a 90% non-emitting grid by 2030.
- Minimize residual emissions to reduce the need for offsets in the electricity sector.
For technical details on how to strengthen the Clean Electricity Regulations policy language, please see this letter co-signed by CAPE and other organizations. This letter was sent to Ministers Steven Guilbeault (Environment and Climate Change) and Jonathan Wilkinson (Natural Resources) on October 27, 2022.
MPs need to pass the Clean Electricity Regulations as soon as possible.
The current Liberal minority government is supported by the NDP in a Supply and Confidence Agreement. This agreement, announced in March 2022, allows the two parties to work together to advance specific priorities, among them climate policy initiatives. This arrangement is slated to last until June 2025, allowing for the completion of a standard four-year Parliamentary term. However, the history of Canadian minority governments suggests the possibility of a much shorter arrangement period. On average, federal minorities tend to last under two years. This term’s two-year mark arrives in fall 2023.
Therefore, there is a high probability that an election could be called anytime. When the Parliamentary session dissolves, all business of the House of Commons is terminated. Even if a similar electoral coalition emerged after a new election, the policy process would need to begin again.
The Clean Electricity Regulations are vital for action on climate change.
Put very simply, action on climate change looks very similar for every jurisdiction around the world, and largely consists of two steps, taken concurrently: 1) electrify everything; 2) ensure that all electricity generation is clean.
As policy and individual choices lead Canadians to switch out polluting energy sources such as combustion engines and gas furnaces in favour of cleaner alternatives (e.g., heat pumps, electric vehicles, electrified transit and active transportation), there will be greater use of electricity in daily life. In fact, recent analysis suggests that Canada will have to double or triple its electricity generation capacity to address growing demand.
As electricity use increases, it is essential that this electricity is drawn from clean and renewable sources. In 2020, Canada’s electricity sector was the sixth largest source of domestic greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 8.4% of total national emissions. Due to the highly regional nature of energy consumption in Canada, electricity-related greenhouse gas emissions are particularly high in provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Canada’s electricity sector emissions come primarily from coal and gas, but also include sources such as fuel oil, petroleum coke and motor gasoline.
This means that effective electricity policy will need to phase out these polluting energy sources while adding renewable energy, efficiency measures, and battery storage. All of this will need to be done while expanding and strengthening overall electricity sector capacity.
The Clean Electricity Regulations are important for action on health.
Critical to the transition to a clean electrical grid is the phase-out of coal and gas.
Coal is a major source of air pollution, and its health impacts can include asthma, breathing difficulties, brain damage, heart problems, cancer, neurological disorders and premature death.
While the health literature surrounding the local impacts of gas plants is not yet extensive, there are a range of negative health outcomes associated with gas plants as well as the pollutants (mostly particulate matter and nitrogen oxides) they produce. This includes possible links between emergency visits and hospital admissions in elderly people living close to gas-fired plants, associations between residential proximity to gas-fired plants and adverse birth outcomes, and other health impacts such as long-term mortality, restricted activity days and chronic bronchitis, each with substantive health damage costs.